Nigeria’s Lower House Members Investigate Illegal Mining in Gold-Rich Ijesha Community

Ijesha Land, Osun State, South West Nigeria, is one of the biggest communities in the state, and with its size comes an abundance of untapped and unrefined gold deposits. 

A 2017 estimate by Geology experts places the value of the gold deposits in the entire state at $5bn with majority found in Ijesha land, mainly Ilesha. 

In recent years, illegal mining has been on the rise in the community, with the Police often listed as accomplices in several acts. The Osun State government, in partnership with Canadian mineral exploration company, Thor Explorations Limited have agreed on a gold project in the state but this has done little to discourage illegal miners. 

Thor has spent $100m so far, with $86m coming in debts and equity from its largest shareholder, Africa Finance Corp. The project and its dividends, however is being largely threatened by illegal miners in the state.

The lower chamber of Nigeria’s legislative, the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, expressed concern about the activities of illegal miners in the state. A motion moved by Lawrence Ayeni, a member of the House was adopted by the House because it is an issue that concerns local villagers and the community dwellers. 

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Ayeni pointed out locals have been forcefully displaced and driven out of their lands by illegal miners with the lack of expertise leaving dangers behind in form of environmental hazards. 

He said the community now faces “environmental hazards/natural disaster such as landslides, earthquakes, erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals released during the mining processes.”

The motion was put to vote without debate by the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila. 

Osun State, currently the 14th richest state in Nigeria by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is bullish about its chances of making an upgrade with its gold deposits. The governor of the state Gboyega Oyetola earlier in September said “gold will our oil” in Osun as they will be known for the supply of the mineral resource around Nigeria and the world. 

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“Give us a few years to come, gold will be our oil in Osun State. Our state will be known for the major supply of gold in Nigeria and around the world.

“We are working with responsible miners. The two Canadian firms are doing pretty well and I believe that in no distant future we will be able to harvest a lot of our gold and refine them.

“I can talk about Badger Mines while the second one is still doing the MoU but the first one is already out there doing exploration and the result has been so far, so good.

“Don’t forget that we also have the Segilola Gold Project, which has established a refinery for gold in Osun State. It is a state government initiative too.

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“We are also collaborating with the federal government on mining.

“Our state is one of the two states, along with Kebbi State, selected as pilot states for the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI),” Oyetola boasted at the time. 

For Osun State to enjoy the benefits of gold mining in its local communities, it needs instant interventions to stop illegal mining as it threatens its people, their livelihoods and the economy of the state. 

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